ATCON tasks service providers on rural telephony, 5G technology
After successful 15 years of telecommunications revolution in Nigeria, mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country have been charged on the need to prepare the country for the adoption of 5G technology.
Commenting on the telephony revolution in the country, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olushola Teniola, in an interview with The Guardian, commended the players for sustaining what he described as a ‘remarkable achievement’ in the history of Nigeria.
Recall that the telecommunications revolution’s journey in Nigeria actually started in January 2001 with the auction of the Digital Mobile Licences (DML). This was during the tenure of Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, who was then, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the reign of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The journey culminated into the commercial rollout of telephony services on August 8, 2001, after Airtel, which started as Econet Wireless and MTN paid $285 million each for the DML.
The ATCON president noted that 15 years is a long time in technology for any innovation to be dormant, “as such there is need to move up the ladder to the latest technology.”
According to him, while GSM was introduced in Nigeria in 2001 by Econet (now Airtel), MTN and mTel, “they started with 2G technology for voice. The technology was already around for about 10 years before the adoption in Nigeria. But we have upgraded to 3G, 3.75G and now 4G, so we need to look at the journey so far and move to the next level.”
Teniola said GSM technology has become dominant, with over 148 million subscribers on it in Nigeria, adding that to have achieved this growth in 15 years is tremendous and remarkable.
“It has however, not been easy. Each operator has built infrastructure, several base stations spread across the country. MTN investment alone is around $16 billion and with other operators, they have successfully scaled that to over $32 billion over a decade. So, government must support them for further growth,” he stated.
The ATCON president stressed that operators must spread the telecommunications growth to rural areas, especially localities that are either underserved or unserved. He informed that there are several communities in Nigeria that are yet to see handsets not to talk of making calls.
For further growth, government, MNOs, private sector, according to Teniola must come together. He pointed out that players in the industry needed to introduce latest innovation, saying that the country was to yet exploit to the fullest the potential of the technology world.
According to him, while government harmonizes regulations; reduce Right of Way fees; stop multiple taxation, operators must improve on quality of service; invest more in base transceiver stations and broadband facilities.
Teniola said every network should be Internet Protocol (IP) enabled; stressing that Nigeria should moved to IPv6 and block areas of IPv4 for the country to be competitive.
He called for a department within government that will help the country manage data transactions and storage, stressing that foreigners should not handle this.
“We must enhance local content, build potential for 5G and as a matter of urgency address the slow pace in the growth of broadband nationwide,” he stated.